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Jets boss predicts play-off turbulence

FOLLOWING last term's success, BBL coach of the year Robbie Peers is expecting another exciting season for Jets in particular and the league in general.

FOLLOWING last term's success, BBL coach of the year Robbie Peers is expecting another exciting season for Jets in particular and the league in general.

He said: 'It's going to be a real dog fight to reach the play-offs.

Looking at the other teams, Thames Valley, Edinburgh and Birmingham are all going to be a lot better. Leicester ended the season on a high and Brighton have Nick Nurse as coach. The league's gone up a level.

'But I reckon the team we've put together this year will be very competitive. We put in a lot  of hard work in recruiting and it was a battle, but I'm happy with the end product. It's tough to get people to sign but the players that we have got were all successful last year.

'What we did last year has helped us to get respect. We're known as a team who over-achieve.'

Jets have re-signed James Hamilton, Pero Cameron and Dave Gardner from the side that captured the uni-ball trophy.

'The three of them are an integral part of the team and are the backbone of our club,' said Robbie.

Jets have also pulled off a major coup to add John McCord to their ranks.

Arguably the most outstanding player in the league over the last few years, McCord comes to Chester from Thames Valley Tigers.

Robbie said: 'He's a superstar, a great all-round player and a terrific athlete. It's like Chester City signing Ruud van Nistelrooy. He had a good year personally last season but a disappointing one team-wise. I told him we're going to be competitive and it's a boost for all the fans because they know him and know he's explosive.'

Centre Calvin Davis has arrived from the Icelandic League where he was MVP last season.

John Thomas will have an important role to play in the coming months as the only recognised guard in the Jets' starting line-up.

Robbie said: 'He's a scoring guard who averaged 17 points per game in the IBA last season with the Fargo Beez. He led his league in steals and was second in assists. He's electric and cat-quick.'

The choice of personnel in the Jets' roster also suggests a change in the team's style of play.

Robbie said: 'Although Thomas is the only guard, the others can all do a bit of everything, they're all creators and it gives us great size. John McCord, James and Pero all have guard skills and Calvin isn't a limited player.

'We'll play to our strengths and I'm open minded about the style as I don't think it's something that a coach should impose on his players.'

Other squad members Mark Ogley and Paul Singer will be returning to provide back-up while Paul's 17-year-old brother Mark will also be joining the roster.

Jets have also signed guard Vijay Ramburuth, 19, a local player from the Wirral who Robbie has known for six years.

Neil McKelvey is also hoping to be available for selection, so long as he can shake off a back injury which has been hampering him for several months.

Robbie said: 'Neil does an awful lot for the club and, whether he's playing or not, he's a big part of the team. He's gone to see a specialist and we'll have to wait and see what the outcome is.'

Paul Smith, one of last year's squad players, will not be part of this season's roster but will be assisting Robbie with coaching duties.

Jets fans will be relieved that Robbie is still at the Northgate Arena after he turned down an official approach from Edinburgh Rocks over the summer.

He said: 'They offered me more money to spend on players than Jets and Chester's budget on player wages is still the smallest in the league.

But the great thing about our club is that 75 per cent of all our revenue goes on players' wages and not on hotel bills and fancy cars. The players are our main priority and we do pay them well.

'James Hamilton and Pero Cameron are not cheap and John McCord is not cheap, but in most sports the team with the least money finishes bottom of the league and we're doing well.'

The success of last season will have increased the expectancy levels of Jets fans and it is a fact that Robbie is well aware of.

He said: 'I want the fans to have expectations and that's great because I have more. My ambition was to win a trophy with Jets and I thought that it might not happen for a very long time, but I've done it so I'll have to think of a new goal.

'Only fools make predictions and it's difficult to know just how good we'll be. There will be times when we play well and times when we're sloppy, it will be a roller coaster but I think there will be more highs than lows. I'm looking forward to it and once again I've set my team the target of reaching the play-offs.'

* Jets play a friendly against Manchester Magic at Ellesmere Port Catholic High tonight (8.30pm). Their BBL season starts on Saturday with a trip to Derby Storm (7.30pm) before Sunday's home game with Manchester Giants (5.30pm).


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
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